When a mystery teenage boy emerges from the River Thames drenched, distressed and unable to remember anything about himself, he becomes the focus of worldwide media speculation. Unable to communicate, the River Boy is given paper and a pencil and begins to scribble. Soon a symbol emerges, but the boy has no idea why he has drawn it even thought it's the only clue to the mystery of his identity...
As the boy begins to build a new life under a new name, the hunt for his real identity begins.
A hunt which will lead him on a dangerous QUEST that he has only one year to complete ...
1. The quest
I love what I call quest stories, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I really loved Dan Brown's Angels and Demons and its sequel The Da Vinci Code. Books like this are my guilty pleasure, and since then I have been spoiled for choice in this area, with great series from the likes of Andy McDermott, Chris Kuzneski and Scott Mariani, but as I have often asked in the past - with so many books in this genre published for adults, where are these mystery-adventure-conspiracy-thrillers for younger readers? Thus, for this reader at least, Genesis by Helen Dennis is a very welcome addition to my bookshelf.
2. The mystery
Helen Dennis is no stranger to writing mystery quest books. I am quite a fan of her middle grade Secret Breakers series, and Genesis is even better. Written, I believe, for a slightly older audience (although certainly suitable for readers from age 10+), the much loved tropes that can be found in adult examples of the genre are all present and correct: a protagonist who has lost his memory, another character drawn into the mystery almost by accident, strange symbols that suggest more than a hint of alchemy, a secret and ruthless organisation bent on gaining sole possession of whatever lies at the heart of the mystery. Put all these together and there was no way I wasn't going to love this book.
3. Mental health issues
Jed, the main character, having suffered severe memory loss is central to to the plot of Genesis. However, it is not this that I am referring to in this case. In order to aid his healing and hide him away from the press, Jed is 'welcomed' in to the family of Kassia Devaux. Kassia's family life is less than conventional - her father died a numbers of years earlier in an accident and her mother's behaviour is symptomatic of someone suffering from a number of mental health conditions. She suffers from severe anxiety, OCD and possibly BPD, and much of this is manifested in her attitude towards Kassia and her deaf brother Dante. She is over-protective, obsessive about cleanliness around the house and has pretty much mapped out Kassia's future for her. It's important that young readers experience characters with such illnesses in the stories they read, and not just in contemporary 'real life' stories where mental illness of a character is central to the story. It's another example of what we mean when we cry for more diversity in books for children and young adults (as is Dante's disability).
River of Ink: Genesis was published in the UK last week, and my thanks go to those fab people at Hodder for sending me a copy. The sequel, Zenith, is due out in June so fortunately we only have six months to wait to find out what happens next.